NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Inspector General’s office is blasting the cross-agency hiring of the wives of the Municipal Court Judge Paul Sens and Sheriff Marlin Gusman, saying the arrangement “created an appearance of impropriety,” even though it doesn’t appear to violate any laws.
The report released today by Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux details the public consulting jobs obtained about a month apart by Sens’ wife Ann, and Gusman’s wife Renee.
Ann Sens began working as a real estate appraiser for the Sheriff’s Office in December 2011, followed by the employment of Renee Gusman as a drug counselor for Municipal Court in Janary 2012, according the Inspector General’s “Report of Inquiry.”
In an interview with the IG’s office, Sens is quoted saying “that he knew nothing of his wife’s working arrangement.”
“He said that he and the Sheriff hired each other’s spouses independently and that there were no prior agreements,” the report states in a summary of Sens’ response.
Gusman response in the report is also summarized: “According to Sheriff Gusman, there was no agreement between him and Judge Sens to hire each other’s spouses. He said the idea was ‘ridiculous.’ ”
The arrangement was first reported by the local investigative website The Lens, which published that Renee Gusman had earned about $30,000 for counseling first-time marijuana offenders, while Sens earned about $90,000 for conducting real estate appraisals on foreclosed properties.
Both consulting positions were no-bid jobs, and the fees paid to Renee Gusman are considered “public funds,” according to the IG’s report. The fees paid to Ann Sens for appraisals are not paid from public funds, coming instead from plaintiffs in foreclosure lawsuits.
While the IG’s inquiry “found no evidence of criminal behavior,” the report criticizes the arrangement for a variety of reasons.
“Their actions created an appearance of impropriety, diminished confidence in the integrity of the criminal justice system and government in general, and deprived the public of the benefits of competition in public procurements,” Quatrevaux wrote.
Gusman issued the following statement late Wednesday night:
"There is no basis in the law or fact to support the presumptions and inferences expressed.”